News

Brexit: Two-party system is being held hostage by their extremes – Christine Jardine

For the full text of this article please follow the link to The Scotsman: https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/brexit-two-party-system-is-being-held-hostage-by-their-extremes-christine-jardine-1-4902980

This week Christine Jardine MP writes in The Scotsman about the black comedy of Westminster: Protestors supergluing themselves to the screen installed to protect MPs from … err… protestors; the ‘water’ leak that washed up against a little publicised tax debate on the seedy business whether HMRC should claim money back from people who took part in a tax scheme which HMRC itself said was legal at the time. You couldn’t make it up.

Jardine also writes, of course, about the real problem with Westminster: “a parliamentary system that is looking increasingly damaged by political parties held hostage by their extremes”

EXCERPT from CHRISTINE JARDINE in THE SCOTSMAN 8th April 2019

https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/brexit-two-party-system-is-being-held-hostage-by-their-extremes-christine-jardine-1-4902980

“I don’t think I am alone amongst MPs in feeling that the dominant emotions at Westminster are frustration and fear.

“Frustration that so many of us are agreed that we need to find a way forward out of this morass and then put it to the people, but are unable to overcome the trench warfare that has come to dominate our two-party system.

“Fear that if we cannot find a way to persuade those most entrenched to compromise soon, that the minority who would happily accept crashing out – and all that it might bring – will have their way.”

“And yet we rallied, pushed through that important Yvette Cooper Bill, and then found that the EU too was prepared to help avoid that worst-case scenario. Hope.

“Over this past weekend, those of us at the centre of the drama have been determined to continue the cross-party conversations that we hope will lead to compromise and wait while the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition do the same.

“But, with a parliamentary system that is looking increasingly damaged by political parties held hostage by their extremes and a country holding its breath for an outcome, we cannot afford to fail.”

“I pay my taxes to Mrs Merkel …” Brexit, Business and Berkshire.

Brexit, Business and Employment in Berkshire – 2017

Judith Bunting speaking in February 2017 at a cross party rally organised by West Berkshire Stronger Together EU.

Back in 2017, I was invited to speak at a cross party rally organised by West Berkshire Stronger Together EU.

My focus was the results of the survey of local businesses that we had just completed, asking whether the prospect of Brexit was already affecting their business and how they thought Brexit would affect them in the long run.

This matters because it affects employment in our area and also the quality of life for everyone. To paraphrase the owner of an engineering company who has moved from Greenham to Germany: I pay my taxes to Mrs Merkel, now.

“It is time to update our knowledge of the will of the people.”

A couple of excerpts, below, from Sarah Ludford’s speech in the Lords’ debate, this week, on the Cooper Letwin Bill, designed to avoid us leaving the EU without a deal.

Sarah Ludford: “There has been a serious impact on the economy. As a result of the Brexit vote, we have lost around 2.5% of GDP, even though we are still in the EU. We are down by around £600 million a week.

“As I was saying, there are already shortages of medicines, and that will get worse. The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, who is not with us now, suggested in a debate we had a couple of weeks ago that I was wrong to draw attention to the problem of people not getting essential medicines. These stories continue to appear, and they are very real. The NHS has not stockpiled everything because some medicines such as short-life isotopes cannot be stockpiled. It is therefore irresponsible to contemplate no deal. There would also be effects on our security and on Northern Ireland—the noble Lord, Lord Hain, has talked about the issues as regards the Northern Ireland border and possible direct rule.”

Sarah Ludford (contd): “I do not want to go on about a people’s vote, but the noble Lord, Lord Howard, referred to the will of the people. It is time to update our knowledge of the will of the people. Three years on, it is not reasonable or reliable to rely on what a different electorate said in 2016. We hope and expect that the Prime Minister will seek an extension, but she should use that extension to get an update of the verdict of the people.

Read the full speech, here, at Lib Dem Voice.

Local traders say Brexit is bad for business. Survey Results.

Version 2

  • “After the referendum result we spent six months absorbing cost increases. Since January we have had no choice but to pass these increases on to our customers”.Jon Gage, Rivar Sand and Gravel (see photo).

Two thirds of local traders and service providers who took part in West Berks Business Brexit Survey survey think their business is going to be hurt when we leave the EU and the single market.

The consultation was part of a national exercise for small businesses. Newbury and West Berks Liberal Democrats wanted to make sure that the views of our local traders and employers were properly represented in the national results. The consultation ran online from 19th October to 14th December 2016.

  • “If tariffs are introduced for British businesses trading with the EU,
    the effect on my business will be catastrophic!”

The news is that two thirds of local traders and service providers who took part in the survey think their business is going to be hurt when we leave the EU and the single market. Many report that their costs have gone up already and that they have no choice to but to pass these onto their customers through increased prices.

  • EU funding supports nearly 45% of the post 16 funding.
    There is
    nothing in the plans to show how this loss will be addressed.”  

The Liberal Democrats continue to believe that Britain is better off in Europe, but our immediate priority is to make sure small local businesses do not pay the price of a rushed withdrawal.

The results of the survey are being used to draw up a list of negotiating requirements, which the Liberal Democrats will call on the Government to achieve.

This report was first published in 2017. See the report from the Newbury Weekly News, here:
https://www.newburytoday.co.uk/news/home/20695/west-berkshire-business-bosses-reveal-fears-for-the-future-in-brexit-survey.html

RESULTS

Q: Do you expect Brexit to have a positive or negative impact on your business?

q1-numbers

q1-graph
66% of people who responded expect Brexit to have negative impact on their business

Q: Do you export to the EU?

q3-numbers

q3-graph
27.08% say they export to the EU

Q: Do you import products or materials from the EU?

q4-numbers

q4-graph
47.92% import products or materials from the EU

Q: Do you have suppliers or business partners who do business with EU countries?

q5-numbers

q5-graph
81.25% of respondents have suppliers or business partners who do business with EU countries

More comments from the survey responses will follow
in separate posts, published in the next few days.

VIDEO: Newbury Lib Dem puts West Berks cuts on National Agenda

This post was first published on 12th March 2016

Today, at the Liberal Democrat National Spring Conference Judith Bunting spoke about the need for sound and stable public finances at local and national level, and the devastating effect that that Tory cuts are having on our young people:

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Good morning, Conference.  I want to highlight the link between the need for sound and stable management of public finances and the devastating effects the current Conservative drive to kill off local authority funding by central government is having on the education, training and aspiration of young people around the UK.

George Osborne’s commitment to reduce government funding of local councils to zero by 2020 has not received enough attention in the press. That’s one for the journalists in the hall – the Conservatives have not been challenged nearly enough on what result this draconian change of funding is going to have.

I was the parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Newbury in West Berkshire in 2015. We currently have a Tory MP and a horribly Tory Council – they lead the council 48 to 4.

Last week, they imposed £10m of cuts on our public services. In a few weeks time they will be making a further £6m of cuts. They are closing bus routes, school bus subsidies, children’s centres, funding for charities like Mencap and Time to Talk, and they are about to close 8 out of 9 of our libraries.

There are other cuts as well, but so much of the damage is falling on the back of our children, that I worry for the future. I really do. I am not convinced that many Tories, including our MP and our Council, have given a second’s consideration to how this mis-management of public finances is going to affect our young people.

Whatever happens in the future, however, we are unlikely to ever be able to turn the clock back and restore the funding that Richard Benyon’s government is removing from local authorities, so how will Councils in the future achieve sound and stable management of public finances at a local level without a government settlement.

To answer this, I look to Liberal Democrat led Councils such as Eastleigh, now, and Portsmouth, as was. These teams set up additional income streams some years ago now to take the pressure off their public services. For example:

  • In Portsmouth, the council has for a long time had external businesses that they run to make a profit. It now owns and lets a number of extensive buildings to the HMRC and other commercial operators.
  • Eastleigh Council is part-owner of the Ageas Bowl cricket ground, hotel and spa, a profitable enterprise, which supports their schools, libraries and community centres
  • This £150m asset management plan has enabled 13 years of real term cuts in council tax and no front line service cuts.

If a small council like Eastleigh can find ways to raise money without increasing the very unfair council tax and can still provide the services people need, why can’t West Berkshire Council?

Ambitious and imaginative councils can run good services without pushing up the council tax. A senior source at the LGA recently vouchsafed to me that the only way Councils are going to manage in the future is going to be to own and let property. What is West Berkshire and other Conservative Councils doing, but selling off property for short term gain.

Since 2013 Local Authorities have also had the power the power to keep up to half of any business rate growth in their area. West Berkshire Council’s response to this is to lose Bayer to Reading, lose Hitachi, lose Amec and force numerous local traders out of business.

We sorely need a Liberal Democrat hand on the tiller. In government, to halt the mean-spirited cutting of George Osborne, and at the local level, in West Berkshire, to put some vigour and commitment into the funding of our public services.

The only way to achieve this is to develop strong, clear policies, like this the Economic Policy before us today and to restore some good sense and sound management to public finances in government and in local authorises across the UK.

Newbury and West Berkshire March for Europe

This post was first published in 2017.

West Berkshire was well represented at the March for Europe in London, with members of West Berkshire Stronger Together EU (WBSTEU) and Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats on the move.

We joined with many thousands of people to march from Marble Arch, down Pall Mall to Trafalgar Square, then along Whitehall to Parliament Square. We heard rousing speeches from Tim Farron on Park Lane, before the march began. He was in front of the crowd again at Parliament Square with the Guardian reporting (at 14:10) as follows: ‘Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron cemented his growing role as the political leader of the Remain movement with a well-received address to the Unite For Europe march in Parliament Square.’

Many speeches followed, with excellentt contributions from Alistair Campbell, Peter Tatchell and David Lammy. The big finish came with Nick Clegg, who was excellent, as ever: “Sadness has given way to a perpetual sense of anger about the choices that Theresa May and her government have taken since [the EU Referendum].”

“It was a choice to pull us out of the customs union, it was a choice to embark on that demeaning bout of transatlantic obsequiousness,” Clegg explains, as he accuses the prime minister of “threatening to turn our country into a bargain basement cowboy economy”. (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2017/mar/25/brexit-protest-thousands-march-in-london-to-unite-for-europe-live?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other)

If you would like to join your local Liberal Democrats and work with us,
please sign up online and drop me a line at judith.bunting@wbld.org.uk.

EU rally in Newbury

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 17.31.00.jpgSite under construction. This post was first published in 2017.

The recent West Berks Stronger in the EU  rally, saw a good cross-party crowd gather and march through in Newbury town centre.

Speakers included Paul Field of the Greens and Jonny Roberts from Labour, and myself representing Liberal Democrats across Newbury and West Berkshire.

Before the rally, I was asked by a couple of people why we were bothering, given the Brexit process is underway now and the Article 50 bill has been passed by parliament. For me the answer is clear and was put perfectly by Andrew Rawnsley in this Sunday’s Observer:

“The hard Brexiters … did not stop campaigning when the referendum result came in. They continued agitating and with a burning ferocity that was amplified by the Brexit press at its most megaphonic. They did so to ensure that they could impose their interpretation of what the referendum meant.”

Meanwhile, the views of area’s like Newbury and West Berkshire and other places and people who voted Remain are being drowned out. Local businesses are being hurt, prospects for employment are worse and EU funding that supports local charities, farmers and work-place training is on the line. None of these are academic worries, they add up to hundreds of jobs, hundreds of lives.

Remain MPs, like our own, Richard Benyon, have caved in and voted to support Article 50 and against the amendment that would have ensured that all EU citizens legally living in the UK on June 23 – the date of the EU referendum – would have their right to stay protected. I have met people on the doorstep who moved to Newbury and Thatcham years ago – some 15 to 20 years ago – to work for great businesses like Vodafone and Stryker, who have married, had families and are happy here, part of the local community. And now, they have no idea whether they will be allowed to stay.

If Remainers do not keep up the pressure, the UK is going to be hit with the hardest of hard Brexits, which was not on any ballot paper I saw on 23rd June.

So join us. We may not be able to change the direction of travel, but we can influence the Brexit destination where this ends. 

Boxford Masques – From stump to stage

A report, here, from last week’s Newbury Weekly News, on my contribution to this year’s very excellent Boxford Masques:

The performance runs from 26th – 31st July. Tickets are £9 and £12 and can be booked by the Watermill Theatre website: https://www.watermill.org.uk/the_boxford_masques_2017_at_welford_park_all_at_sea

The play is great fun, like Noel Coward with a pantomime atmosphere. At the same time, amid the musical and romantic comedy, Geraldine McCaughrean has woven a warm, approachable exploration of the rights of refugees. The stage is set at Welford Park. Do bring a picnic, or there is a barbeque on site as well as coffee, cake and beer tent.

 

 

School cuts – West Berkshire Council proposes charging schools who need help

Judith Bunting at Park House School, Newbury, during
the recent election campaign.
With Ian Millar, Head of Physics.

This week West Berkshire Council announced plans for financial “task forces” to be sent into the district’s struggling schools to help heads manage their budgets. They are also threatening to charge any school that requires ‘the task force intervention’.
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Judith Bunting, Parliamentary Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats in Newbury, said: “This is another shockingly negative move from the Conservatives on West Berkshire Council. They present this issue as if our schools are failing, In reality, the actions of West Berkshire Council and the Conservative Government mean that many local schools have not only suffered significant cuts to their funding, but at the same time are being expected to provide more services around children’s mental health and other matters.”
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Judith continued, “West Berkshire Council should be glad to help schools doing their best to keep up standards of education under such onslaught, not chastise them and then charge them for the privilege.”
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This week, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary Layla Moran told national press about the hypocrisy surrounding Justine Greening’s announcement £1.3bn of additional funding for schools. In reality, she said, this ‘additional funding’ will come from “efficiencies” from within the education budget:
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“This is a desperate attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Instead of providing the £4bn of extra funding promised in their manifesto, the Conservatives are recycling cash from the education budget. It is robbing Peter to pay Paul. Schools are still facing cuts to their budgets once inflation and increasing class sizes are taken into account.
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“Children only get one go at education. We need to invest more in our schools to ensure that no child is left behind.”
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Follow Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats on Twitter, here: @wberkslibdems

Follow Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats on Facebook, here: www.facebook.com/WestBerksLibDems

News and views from Judith Bunting can be found, here: www.judithbunting.co.uk or @JudithBuntingLD or www.facebook.com/JudithBuntingforNewbury

Vince Cable and the Preying Mantis of Coalition

Having Vince Cable as our leader during the changes and challenges of Brexit negotiations will be an excellent outcome. .
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I regret Tim Farron’s passing. He was a great help to people and campaigns in our own constituency. I would also like to register, here, the amazingness of what he has achieved as our Leader in the past two years. When you think of the 2015 election results – see later for Vince’s comments on the preying mantis of coalition – who would think that we could have increased our membership so dramatically, so quickly, so that now membership of the Liberal Democrats is the highest ever.
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The current hung parliament is a real climb down for the Conservatives. Cross-party collaboration is going to be an intrinsic part of what’s to come, which Tories will hate and Labour may resist, putting party before nation, as ever, but it is an exciting thought for anyone willing to work cross-party. Now, they stand a chance of getting through policies from their various manifestos. For the Lib Dems this means reforms in housing, NHS and mental health funding. And Vince drives a hard bargain.
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I have known Vince for a few years, now. He is direct, unflinching and tough enough to take on the big boys. When I delivered my first leaflets, they were to support his campaign and it was he who essentially lured me into becoming an activist. If you would like to know more about his current views – see his interview on the New Statesman website fro 5th July 2017:

Vince Cable: Theresa May’s Tory conference speech “could have been taken out of Mein Kampf.
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My personal favourite passage is the comment he makes about coalition, right at the end of the piece:  ‘ “I have the metaphor of mating with a praying mantis,” he says, as his pale blue eyes twinkle with amusement. “You get eaten at the end of it. We don’t want to go down that road again.” ‘
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Working with Vince Cable, after the Business Breakfast at the Regency Hotel in Thatcham, 2012.